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101 Nights to Remember

Thirteen Years a Reviewer , Theatre of Wales , April 20, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Thirteen Years a Reviewer The productions of Wales that tour widely in England are not many. “Deep Cut” was one of them. Its prominence led to awards and critical acclaim, with the voice of heavyweight critic John Peter in the lead.

Companies are entropic. They lose energy and sag. “Deffro'r Gwanwyn” was a blast of re-energisation for the company.

“The Devil Inside Him” was an example of a heavyweight intellectual's contribution to a Board. The moving impulse for this production was Peter Stead.

Publicly funded arts should be deployed to make for an ecology that is rich in variation. “Dilyn Fi” demonstrates such variation.

From “Deep Cut”, Sherman Cymru, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 2008

“The deaths at Deepcut Barracks are well-known; four young people were found dead over a period of six years, including Cheryl James from Llangollen, violent deaths hastily judged as self-inflicted and rushed through hurried inquests. Nine years after the first death an inquiry was set up, financed by the MOD, but which lacked the power to compel the appearance of witnesses. Much of the evidence proved to have been ignored, lost or tainted. Four reports, eventually produced by Surrey Police, were withheld from public view with not even summaries available. Philip Ralph’s play shows, in detail, that independent forensic investigation rendered the official causes of death simply incredible.

“With a uniformly excellent cast of six it is in the nature of the piece that three of the roles are necessarily documentary. The emotional weight falls on Ciaran McIntyre and Rhian Morgan as parents Des and Doreen James. Director Mick Gordon has elicited performances of subtly contrasting portrayals of loss. Rhian Blythe, last seen on stage in “Blink”, plays Jonesy, a fellow army recruit. She is a generation younger than the other characters, crucial in contrast, and her performance is a luminous mix of youthfulness, fresh-faced inexperience and later realism...The day that “Deep Cut” opened in Scotland Barry George was released from eight years of imprisonment on the contested evidence of a single piece of polyester fibre. The police effort had been massive; as in “Deep Cut” it was a reminder that the gradations of class and privilege run on as deep in death as they do in life...Unmissable quality theatre when it returns to Wales next month.”

From “Deffro'r Gwanwyn”, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Sir Geraint Evans Leisure Centre, Aberaeron, 2011

“A third of the audience that sold out the first performance in Aberaeron’s leisure centre was aged under twenty. Nine out of the cast of thirteen are aged twenty-five and below. The show received a standing ovation...The book is utterly faithful to Wedekind’s shocker of an original play. The scene in which Ellen Ceri Lloyd’s Wendla asks to be beaten by Aled Pedrick’s Melchior still shocks. So does the scene of group masturbation and reform school violence. The final departure of the dead children has a physical, emotional impact amplified by director Elen Bowman’s choice of a thrust stage.

“As a musical the show has several stand-out company numbers. Elen Bowman stages the final “the Song of Purple Summer” with her cast all seated. This choice renders its elegiac tone all the more affecting. The best ballad must be “Don’t Do Sadness”, beautifully shared by Llynwen Haf Roberts’ Ilse and Iddon Jones’ Moritz...For the two big belters choreographer Bridie Doyle has her performers strutting, stomping, twitching. In “the Bitch of Living” a couple of the men execute synchronised handstands. I had been wondering how Dafydd James might render “Totally F----ed”; not exactly a phrase that pops up in an Wlpan class. In fact he keeps it as it is, with the visceral force of the original words...Ace McCarron’s lighting design at times picks out individual faces, at times highlights the whites of the shirts beneath the boys’ black waistcoats....The out-of-view five strong band is led by Dyfan Jones. Rachel Davies’ violin gives the quieter songs their lyrical underlay. The more upbeat numbers get their rhythm from Myfyr Isaac’s driving guitar and Ryan Aston’s tremendous drumming.”

From “The Devil Inside Him”, National Theatre Wales, New Theatre, Cardiff, 2010

“Sixty years on from its Easter Monday premiere at Huddersfield’s Theatre Royal Elen Bowman’s production is meticulous, insightful and closes on a note of sheer directorial imagination...Black market goods are up for sale in the unnamed village just beyond easy reach of Swansea. Spare rooms are let out to lodgers to supplement the scanty income from shop-keeping. John Osborne’s own childhood room was let to a Welsh commercial traveller, obliging him to sleep on the sofa. In life the lodger was a Mr Evans, in fiction he is called Mr Stevens, a five minute part which sadly is all that the audience gets to see of the admirable Steven Elliott.

“Alex Eales’ design captures this monochrome world in all its detail. Condensation runs down the wood frame windows. Clothes are dark and grey. In the under-heated house sleeveless pullovers are worn beneath jackets...This meticulousness of the production extends to the acting. Helen Griffin as Mrs Prosser has a voice of appropriate softness, spoken with a perfect articulation...John Cording's Minister Gruffuydd unleashes a ferocious assault on troubled Huw...Iwan Rheon captures his utter displacement with ramrod straight arms and head tilted forward.”

From “Dilyn Fi”, Cwmni'r Frân Wen, Aberystwyth, 2016

“The company has form in putting together quality shows for children. Where the classy “Gwyn” two years ago was by definition a snowy white the colours for ”Dilyn Fi” are predominantly blues and pinks...Aberystwyth's studio floorspace has two fold-up screens, the panels decorated with eight different diamond patterns. The props for the animated dance and action are ten suitcases of varied age and vintage. Am eight inch high elephant is fulcrum for the peripatetic plot.

Cêt Haf wears denim and a shirt with horizontal stripes. That of Elgan Rhys has vertical stripes. She wears pink socks and a yellow hairband. He wears blue socks and a yellow bow-tie. One of the cases yields a top hat and safari helmet for travelling. A single silver glove betokens an elephant's trunk...Iola Ynyr is again at the directorial helm with a certainty of touch that knows her audience well...”Dilyn Fi” is a treat of colour, sound, crispness and assurance of performance.”

Picture: “Deffro'r Gwanwyn”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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